Senator Estrada stalling, prosecutors say
MANILA, Philippines—State prosecutors have asked the Sandiganbayan to set aside the petition of detained Sen. Jinggoy Estrada to stop the presentation in court of a report of an Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) investigation into the senator’s bank accounts.
Prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman told the antigraft court’s Fifth Division that Estrada’s request should be dismissed for “utter lack of merit” and for delaying the resolution of the senator’s bail hearing.
“What is clear is that accused Estrada desperately wants to keep the AMLC inquiry report from this honorable court and from the public at large undoubtedly because the same is damaging to him,” they told the court last Wednesday.
It said Estrada’s motion was just part of his “endless barrage of frivolous motions” designed to delay the proceedings and “prevent incriminatory evidence from being introduced against him.”
“Accused Estrada should simply come clean and explain himself to the people. His dilatory maneuvers—being orchestrated by his lawyers since day one—are beginning to speak volumes of his purported ‘innocence,’” the prosecutors said.
Estrada has been detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center at Camp Crame since June 2014 following his indictment for graft and plunder in connection with his alleged role in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Last Monday, Estrada’s lawyers were able to block the testimony of AMLC bank officer Orlando Negradas Jr., who led the investigation into Estrada’s bank accounts and those of his alleged conduits.
In blocking the prosecution plan to present in open court the AMLC report, Estrada claimed that the council itself had earlier admitted that the discussion of its inquiry report would be a violation of the confidentiality provision of its investigation.
He also argued that the report was inadmissible in court since it was “obtained in a manner which is constitutionally infirm,” adding that the report contained only “initial” findings.
But the prosecution said that Estrada, like all other government officials, had waived his right to privacy when he filed his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) as required by law, and cannot invoke this right to privacy against the Ombudsman, “which he expressly authorized to obtain information regarding his assets and properties from government agencies.”
It said the Supreme Court ruling pertaining to confidentiality which Estrada cited in his petition involved only cases in connection with “civil forfeiture, asset preservation and freezing of monetary instruments.”
It said that the criminal action against Estrada was for plunder and was governed by different rules of procedure, hence “Estrada’s claim of confidentiality is misplaced.”
“It is beyond question that deposits made in the accounts examined pursuant to the bank inquiry order are the subject matter of the litigation as they constitute the ill-gotten wealth amassed, accumulated or acquired by the accused,” it added.
In a related development, the Office of the Ombudsman has asked the Supreme Court to order the transfer of the detained Estrada from the PNP Custodial Center to the Bureau of Jail Management’s (BJMP) detention facility at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.
In a petition filed last Monday, Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang accused the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division of committing grave abuse of discretion by refusing the Ombudsman’s motion to transfer Estrada.
Carandang said the Sandiganbayan abused its discretion by insisting that Estrada was a “high-risk” detainee even if there was no actual threat to his life that would merit his continuing detention at the PNP Custodial Center.
“In ruling that the safety of Estrada cannot be guaranteed once he is transferred to the detention facility of the BJMP in Camp Bagong Diwa, [the Sandiganbayan] capriciously and completely based its conclusion on pure guesswork, speculation and surmises,” the petition read.
Carandang said the antigraft court’s decision to allowing Estrada to remain in Camp Crame “can only be interpreted as a capricious and whimsical exercise of judicial discretion amounting to lack and/or excess of jurisdiction.”
The denial of the Ombudsman’s request for Estrada’s transfer also “equates to a refusal to perform an obligation under the law,” the petition said.
Carandang cited the provisions of Republic Act No. 6975, or the Department of the Interior and Local Government Act of 1990, that clearly mandates the place where detention of prisoners are to be held.
Section 61 of the law states that the BJMP has supervision and control over all city and municipal jails, he said. Thus, Estrada should be detained in a district, city or municipal jail under the supervision and control of the BJMP, Carandang said.
In a decision issued last Sept. 18, 2014, and affirmed on Nov. 13, 2014, the Sandiganbayan reasoned that the congestion in the BJMP facilities in Camp Bagong Diwa was not conducive to the physical well-being of detainees like Estrada and would violate his guaranteed rights as a detainee. With Jerome Aning
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